Thursday, 17 June 2021

FM Radio Not Be Switched-Off in the Czech Republic. Another DAB Setback

FM will remain as the basic platform with DAB+ as an option.

There will be no transition to digital radio broadcasting in the Czech Republic according to the Ministry of Culture. There is no plans to switch exclusively to digital signal distribution in the DAB+ standard. Asked by the online publication Televizníweb.cz, Petra Hrušová at the Ministry said a draft of the government's Strategy for the Development of Terrestrial Digital Radio in the Czech Republic will be submitted by the end of this year. This approach has also a strong support in the Parliament.

According to Hrušová, the report report will not be a strategy for the entire radio market, but only for Czech public radio. Although it already broadcasts digitally in the only nationwide DAB+ multiplex, individual authorizations for the use of these frequencies are valid only until the end of this year. The ministerial strategy is to cover the digital broadcasting of Czech public radio from 2022.


On 24 August 2016, by Resolution No. 730, the Government approved the material Proposal for the Development of Terrestrial Broadcasting on Czech public radio. Part of this material was the task for the Ministry of Culture to establish a coordination group that will discuss issues in the implementation of digital broadcasting on Czech public radio and submit by the end of 2021 an evaluation of development and possibly a proposal for further action. This group was established from representatives of the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting, the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic, the Czech Telecommunications Office (ČTÚ), public radio and the APSV and NRA radio associations. The Ministry of Culture expects to submit this material to the government by the end of the year, said Petra Hrušová. The strategy will not address the development of DAB+ digital networks for commercial radios, which have been awaited for several years.


At the same time, the Ministry of Culture rejects the idea that due to the introduction of DAB+ digital radio broadcasting, the analogue FM band would be switched off and analogue radio broadcasting would end. "Nothing like this is being considered yet, all representatives in the coordinating body at the Ministry of Culture have clearly agreed on this conclusion. It would be a step that would have significant social impacts. In Europe so far only Norway has decided to go this route, other countries do not take this step, because there is no reason for it, explained Hrušová. According to her, the report basically welcomes the parliamentary initiative which has enforced the possibility of further extension of analogue licenses for commercial radios after 2025.


All current commercial radios, which broadcast in the analogue FM band, have a so-called transformation license, which obliges them to switch to digital broadcasting and leave the FM band in 2025 at the latest. But the parliamentary amendment sets a clear deadline: if the government does not present a clear plan for the transition to DAB+ by October 10, 2022, it will be possible to renew these analogue licenses again by radio with transformation licenses. Thus, there would be no transition to digital broadcasting as in television, but only the launch of simultaneous broadcasting in analogue and digital form.


According to Hrušová, nothing prevents digital terrestrial radio from developing. "It can work today and develop in the future. The government has the opportunity to assess the transition to digital broadcasting at any time in the future, if the right conditions are in place, "adds a spokesman for the Ministry of Culture, adding that radio digitization differs fundamentally from television.


This means that the government would consider the transition only from socio and economic points of view, not because of international obligations, as was the case with the transition to DVB-T and subsequently to DVB-T2, added Petra Hrušová. According to her, the introduction of digital radio broadcasting is an expansion of the offer of technological means of radio broadcasting availability, not a substitute for analogue broadcasting in the FM band. 


However, no one has perceived it in this way in the past: as the transition from analogue broadcasting in the FM band to digital broadcasting in the DAB+ standard was envisaged. If a transition as such does not occur and digital multiplexes are only another way to broadcast a signal in addition to the FM band, digital terrestrial radio (DAB) will have a significantly worse starting position than digital terrestrial television (DVB).


The government will thus leave the popularization of digital broadcasting to the operators themselves, only adjusting the conditions for digital broadcasting to Czech public radio, to which the frequencies for its digital network ČRo DAB+ must be allocated by law. And only after this happens, will be able to allocate frequencies for DAB+ nationwide networks for commercial broadcasting.


Read the full story

Ministerstvo kultury: FM vysílání se vypínat nebude, strategii pro dab+ připravíme jen pro český rozhlas (televizníweb.cz)


After Norway, the only country with a planned FM switch-off is Switzerland where at the moment a hold-over is on the agenda. 54.000 citizens have up to this day signed a petition against a switch-off 2022-2023. Until now Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Great Britain, Ireland, Austria, France, Portugal and Spain have taken the decision to retain FM. Other European countries have not yet revealed any plans in order to replace FM with DAB.


Also read

Public Service in Austria Rejects DAB Radio

While 5G Launches Globally Interest for DAB Radio Fades

BBC: No Switch-Off Plans for FM Radio